Long Island Authors Find Success (and Love) in Romance Novels

Author Jeannie Moon
Author Jeannie Moon. Photo: Kristen Burrell Photography

This is a great time of year to cozy up with a romance novel. Is it time that you wrote one yourself?

One of Long Island’s hit romance novels last year was penned by a burly newlywed who has a lot in common with his protagonist, Chef Kaleb Stavros. The Hamptons-centric The Congressman’s Wife was co-written by East Moriches resident Aristodemos Pavlou (better known as “Chef Arie”) and novelist Charlene Keel. This was Pavlou’s inaugural effort, the first in his soon-to-be-released The Congressman Trilogy.

We hope the next installment, The Congressman’s Mistress, will be out soon. Last year Chef Arie opened pop-up restaurant Bistro Été (in the former Robert’s space) in Water Mill and married his sweetheart Elizabeth Cordano. They’re opening a new restaurant in Water Mill in April. If only this Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef could turn out romance novels like the proverbial hotcakes.

As he says, “Being Greek from Cyprus, Sicilian and Irish, I’m naturally a great storyteller and an adventurer. Having a restaurant and bartending you hear a lot of great stories. And being a natural romantic, my third book became a romance novel. My first two books were cookbooks.” Chef Arie says of his Valentine’s Day plans, “I’m very spontaneous and I don’t plan too far in advance and, if I tell you now, my wife will read about it—[let’s just say] the flowing of Champagne and truffles are a given.

Sag Harbor’s Dawn Berkoski is an aspiring romance writer. As she says, “When I finished my masters thesis and saw how much I was capable of writing, I thought, ‘I can write my own romance book.’ So I did.” She has completed “a couple of manuscripts” that she’s shopping around. “Fingers crossed that they find a home. If not, perhaps I will self publish them down the road.”

Of her favorite genres, she says, “I love historical, paranormal, supernatural, futuristic and contemporary romance. I tend to combine all of them into one. I recently wrote a story about vampires living in modern day London and New York. I used historical research to flesh out their characters and add authenticity to their memories, personal artifacts and collections they accumulated over the years.” In addition to being an active member of Long Island Romance Writers (LIRW), Berkoski attends fiction-writing workshops at the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor. What is Berkoski doing to celebrate Valentines Day this year? “Snuggling up with a good romance!”

When contacted for an interview through the LIRW website, Huntington author Jeannie Moon answered brightly, “I guess I’m your girl. I have  13 books published so far, and six are with Penguin Random House. Five are with a small powerhouse press, Tule Publishing, and two are independently published.” That’s quite a body of work, promoted as “love stories that don’t play by the rules.” Titles like “The Temporary Wife” and “Unexpectedly Yours” are certainly suggestive of rule bending. Moon herself, the dedicated contemporary romance author, seems pretty rule abiding. Moon is a school librarian and is married to her high school sweetheart. Together they have three children and numerous pets. Moon’s popular blog is awash with everyday hints and recipes.

Moons shares that, “I wrote my first true romance in high school. I was shy and awkward as a teen, and the stories gave me an escape; being a writer gave me an identity. One day the plot of my first book hit me full on. I wrote a full synopsis and I was off and running, working at all hours to get it done. The book was terrible, but it gave me the tools I needed to move forward. I wrote another book, and then another. Finally, I found an agent who loved my work, and I signed my first contract in 2012.”

Moon shares that her new series, Compass Cove, is “just going under contract, and I can’t reveal too much about it just yet, but those books are set in a fictional small town near Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor.” And that she’ll be spending Valentine’s Day with “my husband of 28 years. He is my very own hero. I couldn’t write romance without him. I believe in love; that’s why I write about it.”

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